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Forward Pinellas votes to support Tampa Bay Express

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

FDOT_TBX system_mapMembers of a countywide group that oversees Pinellas transportation and planning issues voted to send a resolution to their counterparts in Hillsborough supporting the controversial Tampa Bay Express.

But the support had some caveats and it was not unanimous. Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers was the lone vote against the resolution.

“It seems like we’re rushing to make some kind of statement,” Eggers said. “I’m just uncomfortable with moving forward this quickly.”

The Tampa Bay Express (TBX) is the name the Florida Department of Transportation has given to a $6 billion proposal to add express and variable-rate toll lanes to I-275 and I-4 beginning at Bearss Avenue and extending into Pinellas County. It’s a project that FDOT says will solve traffic congestion problems for the long-term by improving traffic flow.

But the project has proved controversial.

Among the objections are the cost, the endless construction and the bias against less affluent commuters who might not be able to pay the higher toll rates that would be imposed during times of heavy traffic congestion.

Equity was one of the issues bothering Eggers. But he said he was also concerned because Forward Pinellas members had not discussed it. Forward Pinellas is the name of the recently merged Pinellas MPO and Pinellas Planning Council. Members had earlier in the meeting agreed to have the group’s executive director, Whit Blanton, draft a resolution that generally supported the concept and bring it back to the July meeting for final approval. If approved, it would go to the Hillsborough MPO.

But that would have been too late. The Hillsborough MPO is scheduled to vote on the proposal at a meeting later this month. So Forward Pinellas members backtracked and voted at the end of their meeting to send the resolution. But the vote came after several Forward Pinellas members had left the meeting.

That, Eggers said, contributed to his discomfort because those members were unable to contribute to the conversation.

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